In Praise Of The Video Game Controller, The Violin For ‘Gaming’s Virtuosos’

In Praise Of The Video Game Controller, The Violin For ‘Gaming’s Virtuosos’

To those who are infatuated with motion controls — their fingers swiping across iPad, their hands waving in front of Kinects — I’d like to point out that the controller is still an excellent and precise (!) way to play video games.

That is the point of a new piece about the benefits of the unheralded video game controller that I wrote for the New York Times. You can read it online today or in Saturday’s paper.

Here’s an excerpt:

To devotees of the controller, many of the popular new gaming models are celebrations of slop. And they’re right. Finger swipes, hand waves or voice commands are less precise. They are video gaming’s version of steering a car by tilts of the driver’s head and being able to accelerate only with vocal commands to “speed up.”

Unlike, say, reading a book, in which the mechanics of tracking your eyes across a page of printed words has generally been accepted as the ideal from the beginning, in gaming it’s an open question as to which way is better for the player to interact with the virtual world created. (The controller fan’s lament, for example, echoes earlier complaints by computer-game players who scorned game systems and their controllers, instead championing the precision offered by a mouse and a keyboard.)

The quote in the headline up top about the violin for “gaming’s virtuosos” is from Double Fine’s Nathan Martz, a developer of the Kinect game Once Upon a Monster who still has many kind words for devices that have buttons and thumbsticks.

Less Flailing, More Pushing: The Joy of Joysticks [The New York Times]

Image: Junko Kimura | Getty Images


  • I preferred the wii mote for FPS, sports, and fighting games (precise enough to be immersive). I didn’t find it good enough for 3rd person game camera control, needed anther stick or something.
    The PS3 controller is great for sitting down, feels light, and after awhile you don’t notice you’re using it.

  • On the other hand to the comments above, I absolutely LOATHE the PS3 controller. It’s the single biggest reason I don’t use my PS3 for anything other than exclusives and blu ray; my 360 is my platform of choice. The controller is always comfortable and precise in my hands, while the PS3’s triggers and shape and everything are just so uncomfortable in comparison.

    • I agree. Back in 1996 or something my friends has the PS1 and I always struggled with it. I played the N64 once (after some time with the SNES) and felt it was a lot better. After all that time the PS3 controller still feels weird to me, and even now that I am a Pc gamer the 360 controller reminds me of the N64 controller: comfortable and just better.

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